The rainbows and stars on the mother’s handwritten letter belie her agony and fear.
“I love you, my boy. Be strong and fight, don’t get sad,” the letter reads. “God will protect you and we will be together soon.”
But the truth is, the woman doesn’t know when she and her son will be reunited. She doesn’t even know where he is.
It’s been about two weeks since the mother, who doesn’t want to be identified, was separated from her 7-year-old son near the US-Mexico border, attorney Eileen Blessinger said Sunday.
They fled Honduras to escape threats of deadly violence back home, she said. The mother recalled a drug trafficker “coming after her and her family” and trying to snatch their land.
“He and his friends were threatening to kill them,” Blessinger said.
So the mother and child crossed the Rio Grande, illegally. But a Trump administration policy enacted in April meant every person caught crossing the border illegally would be referred for federal prosecution – including those who arrived with children.
That led to children getting taken away and put in federal shelters or foster care across the country as their parents’ criminal cases progressed.
Blessinger said even though the mother entered the US illegally, “she immediately requested asylum” – a protected status that allows people fleeing persecution to live legally in another country. The asylum request is pending.
But what makes this family’s case particularly devastating is the way the 7-year-old boy was separated from his mother, Blessinger said.
“He was sleeping on the floor (of a holding facility), and the guards said, ‘You can leave him sleeping. We’re going to go to court and come right back,’ ” the mother recalled, according to the attorney.
But when the mother returned, her son was gone. Since then, she’s been “hysterically crying,” since no one has been able to tell her where her son is.
So in an act of hope and desperation, the mother wrote a letter to her son:
To: My reason of life
God will help us my beautiful sky [a term of endearment] to see each other again.
I love you my boy.
Be strong and fight, don’t get sad.
God will protect you and we will be together soon.
I love you.
I adore you.
Your mom loves you and they will never separate us.
The mother gave the letter to Blessinger, a Virginia immigration attorney who’s providing pro bono assistance to detainees in Texas. Maybe, the mother thought, Blessinger could find her son. But as of Sunday, neither the mother nor the attorney knew where he was.
After widespread outrage over family separations, President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week to keep parents and kids together in detention.
“It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump said.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the majority of recently separated children have not yet been reunited.
“The most recent information we have from DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is they have reunited about 21% of those children that were separated from their families under this new enforcement policy,” he said.
Blessinger, the pro bono attorney, said she’s received letters from other detained parents in hopes those letters might reach their children.
She said after talking to dozens of detainees that many of them are escaping dire or deadly conditions in their homelands.
“Their lives are actually at risk … not every person, but 90% of them,” she said.
“I agree we can’t take everyone. But what is the solution?”
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, Nick Valencia, Gisela Crespo, Tal Kopan and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.